There's no taste like home! Expat family brings Saudi cuisine to America
Chicken Kabsa is one of the traditional Saudi dishes served at Aldeerah. (Wikipedia)
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The United States is often referred to as a “melting pot” because of all the different cultures that exist across the 50 states. The numerous and varied cultures which exist are also reflected in the enormous choice of restaurants, which range from French and Italian to Mexican, and Japanese, with a lot of other choice in between. One kind of restaurant which hasn’t existed is an authentic one from Saudi Arabia. Until now.
The idea of Saudi diplomat Dr. Mody Al-Khalaf who was working at the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission outside of Washington, her restaurant “Aldeerah” has become the talk of the town. The name “Aldeerah”, which translates as “The Homeland”, was carefully chosen to reflect one of her main goals: to be a home away from home for all those craving dishes from Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette from Vienna, Virgina, Dr. Mody said, “Coming to the US five years ago, I quickly realized there were no restaurants serving Saudi food or representing the Saudi culture. Every time I wanted to organize a cultural event, I would need to provide some of the dishes myself. Every time I had guests over, my college age sons would fight over leftovers for their friends who missed Saudi food. So I knew there was a need and market for that.”
She quickly went to work in her free time, finding the perfect venue to open a restaurant; plan the menu; hire chefs who could prepare dishes that tasted like they do in Saudi Arabia, and build a website to start to promote her business.
The dishes offered are mainly from “Najd” in the central part of Saudi Arabia. For Americans curious about tasting food from the Kingdom, Aldeerah’s highly polished website, which plays music from the Kingdom, describes the menu this way, “The cuisine is unique in itself and unaffected by neighboring countries. Evolving purely from generations of Bedouin culture, these dishes not only burst with flavor but have valuable nutrition.” Those dishes include, chicken kabsa, jireesh, muttabaq, mathloothah, kinafah with cream and traditional Arabic coffee and dates.
As anyone who visits the United States, weekend brunches are a tradition, with dishes like eggs benedict, blueberry pancakes and French toast being among the favorite orders. But Aldeerah is offering the traditional Saudi brunch dishes with beans and or platters that consist of olives, cheese, thyme, tahina, honey and cream.
The variations on the menu have meant business is booming, with both Americans and Saudis coming back for more. In her interview with Saudi Gazette, Dr. Mody said, “So far the reactions have been wonderful. Visitors enjoy the décor, both in the formal dining section and the casual tent like floor seating. They also enjoy the Saudi music playing softly in the background and finally of course, they are keen on trying Saudi dishes some more adventurously than others.” Interestingly enough she added, “One of our most popular dishes among American and Arab guests is the mathloothah, and the jireesh”
Located just over 10 miles outside Washington, guests have included diplomats not just from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, but also those at the embassies of Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE and Singapore. People working at the State Department have also made reservations, and the press in Washington has given it rave reviews. As article in the Washingtonian said Aldeerah, “Is a feast for the eyes…beautifully and ceremonially presented.”
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